. Selecting Mushrooms
- Selecting Mushrooms
Whether kneeling happily under a tree collecting golden mushrooms or standing in a produce market weighing them on a scale, positive identification of wild mushrooms for eating is essential. Each individual mushroom must be examined to be certain it is the kind you think it is.
Commercial wild-mushroom collectors sell mushrooms to retail outlets. At the present time, anyone may do this, since licenses are not required. Government agencies are in the process of developing guidelines to protect the consumer. Most retailers rely on the judgment of the person who collects the mushrooms to identify them properly. Restaurateurs are sometimes better trained. Ultimately, consumers must take some responsibility in evaluating their purchases and should shop at produce markets where they trust the produce buyer's judgment. It is exciting today to see so many wild mushrooms for sale to the general consumer.
Usually, when we decide to sample a mushroom we've never eaten before, we slice and sauté a small amount of it in butter until it is brown and soft. Then we eat it with plain crackers or toast to evaluate the intensity and the quality of its flavor. These characteristics help us decide how it might be used in a recipe. This procedure will also alert us to any allergic sensitivity we may have to any new foodstuffs. Any new food can cause unpleasant minor reactions.
Both wild and cultivated mushrooms should be carefully checked for freshness. Brown, shiny, smelly soft spots will appear if decay has begun. Look for fragmenting gills or pore surfaces, and for worm holes. The cap should be firm and have a wholesome odor.
Examine dried mushrooms sold in plastic bags with care to be sure they are not broken or showing other signs of age. They may be stored in clean dry cans or bottles, well sealed to prevent moisture or insects from entering.
Avoid the use of plastic bags for gathering or storing fresh mushrooms. Waxed or brown paper bags are preferred. Water condenses on the walls of plastic, making mushrooms moist or soggy. If they must be carried home from the store in plastic bags, remove them to a dry bowl as soon as possible. If the specimens are very moist, line and cover the bowl with a cloth or paper towel before refrigerating. Most mushrooms will last a week if treated this way.